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Do you plan out your day ahead of time?

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  • Do you plan out your day ahead of time?

    I was just wondering how many people plan out their day ahead of time and how exactly you do it. I have done this a few times where I drag actions from my Outlook task list at the start of the day to my calendar so that I get to it on that day if possible. I have found that the days I do that are very productive, but it takes a lot of discipline to do it everyday. I am good about doing my weekly review every week, but I have not yet been consistent in my "daily review".

    How many of you out there do this or something similar?

    I would love to hear feedback on this.

  • #2
    Yes, I do!

    I myself copy and past from Outlook to a simple Word document. I choose the actions I want to do in the day with the "high priority tag" in Outlook. I have an Outlok View of only seeing the priority actions without any other columns. I can then copy and paste to Word and then juggle them around to put them in the exact order I want to do them in. Usually it's stuff to do for the day, though sometimes its stuff for the next 4 or even just a couple of hours (if I have lots of short actions).

    This works brilliantly for me. If I have to go back to the list each time I finish something I usually get distracted or procrastinate but if I have a list to go through - without any more thinking/widget cranking style - then it's amazing how much more I get done.

    I'm not sure if this is strictly GTD. I think DA suggests going back to full action list each time. Perhaps it works so well for me as I'm self-employed so I don't have the problem of a boss coming in and dashing my well-laid plans.

    Sometimes I have lots of new stuff arriving in my inbox and have to quickly process them and make a new list. But, even if I have to this, it's actually very quick, and the time spent on this very short term planning more than pays for itself in productivity.

    The bottom line is it really works for me. Thanks for posting the question!

    I'd be interested to know what people think of this, so feel free to criticise!


    • #3
      No point

      There would be no point in me planning out my day ahead of time. Something always comes along to change it. I just use my context lists to decide what I should be doing, depending on where I am and the resources available.


      • #4
        It works for me, too!

        The last thing I do every day is to choose 3 or 4 actions I'd like to do the day after. When I've done these actions, I can go back my list and choose another one, if it's not time to go home. For me it's a easy to organize my day and do a mini-daily review.
        I think the important point is to choose a possible number of actions that you know you can achieve to do because if the " list of actions for today" is too long, is difficult that you try to do it all.


        • #5
          Yes, I do.

          Yes, I do. I even tend to schedule more Next Actions then I should in terms of GTD but by doing this I can feel that I am more in control.


          • #6
            Planning your day

            Yes. I still maintain a system on my PC (Bonsai). But i have no started planning next day at the end of the previous work day. I simply take the major NA's and put them on paper and prioritise them. For big chunk work I block the time out.

            I then come in the morning and work through that list. For some reason, it so much more satisfying to cross off actions on a paper list. PC is great for the weekly review and the GTD overview, but otherwise paper wins.

            I find that DA's stuff about no daily to do lists/only block fixed appointments on your calender/dont set priotised lists do not work for me. I do all of these things and work better than when I used 'pure' GTD. My day has structure and I feel more relaxed knowing my targets for the day. Sure helps with procrastination as well!


            • #7
              I agree that planning out the entire day hour by hour is probably not feasible for a lot of environments that are constantly changing (like mine). But I like the idea of having a short list of the actions that I would like to complete that day. I am going to start trying to incorporate the daily review into my system.


              • #8
                I agree planning hour by hour would be unrealistic for many people. I don't schedule NAs, but I do have a list for each day. After a couple of years of GTD, I finally worked out that for me the key elements are:
                • Ubiquitous capture, funnelling into a single location (file, pages or whatever)
                • Decision on what projects and NAs are current i.e. this week.
                • [Not strictly GTD] Decision on when this week each current NA will be done
                The captured "stuff" is like a soup in which projects and NAs accumulate. The soup has essentially two layers: Current and Not Current, and I decide where the boundary is. Current items by definition get an allocated day. So the day list is generated as follows:

                1. All projects and NAs are in a single big outline. This includes an Inbox section where I initially note anything that does not have an obvious place in the outline. There may be project support materials elsewhere ie not in the outline, but the outline aims to include the universe of what has to be done - whenever that may be.

                2. Weekly review includes the usual things, including:
                a. weeding and tidying up the outline
                b. deciding what is going to be Urgent (asap), Current (this week), Soon (30 days), Someday or Maybe and marking them accordingly
                c. copying current NAs to suitable days, mainly in the following week

                3. Each day now has a list of Today tasks which are not time-bound. (In addition it may already have a separate hard landscape of meetings etc). The Today tasks are grouped into contexts (very few: Office, Home and Shops). So for example if I am going shopping on Thursday I will put all shopping or errand-type tasks there.

                This method has a number of advantages:
                • I am obliged to decide what is current and what is someday/maybe, since if an NA is current it is by definition added to a specified day list.
                • Projects are bound to advance (or at least be planned to advance), as I am not waiting for a priority algorithm to push any particular NA to the top of my priority list. Being current and therefore planned for a particular day is good enough.
                • Similarly, tasks that are chronically being postponed become apparent soon, and can be investigated. (Am I not making the phone call on the defined date and so continually postponing it for a good reason, or simply because I am not looking forward to it?).
                • Context need not be formally specified until a day is allocated. For example, I could decide to make all those phone calls together on a particular day when I suspect there will be time for them.
                • Ticklers are easily included e.g. phone calls to be made on or after a specified date.
                • If all the day's tasks are done, I can consider doing some of tomorrow's, context permitting.
                • if I am repeatedly not getting all the day's tasks done, I know something is wrong. Maybe I have declared too many current NAs. Maybe I have too much "stuff" altogether and must drop some projects or move them to Maybe.
                Only two documents are required: an outline and a daily list. The outline could be a paper outline or mind map, the daily list could be a paper diary. I use a Palm with Bonsai and Daynotez and native Calendar. Data capture is often on the Palm and the review is on the PC.


                P.S. See Mark Forster's site and excellent book Do It Tomorrow for more on using daily "Closed Lists".


                • #9
                  The only formal “time management” training I’ve ever had was a two-day Priority Managment Systems seminar I signed up for a couple decades ago (and paid for out of my own pocket). In one part, we were schooled to prioritize all of the tasks we intended to complete each day (A1, A2.... B5, etc.) and then transfer all of those tasks, or groups of tasks, over to our daily schedule; and set aside blocks of time to work on them. Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve invariably discovered two things: First, that I inevitably intend to accomplish more than there exists time to do. And second, that my most productive days are those when I plan out my day.

                  Since then, David Allen has come along to inform us that work has changed, that "Nobody gets two hours to do anything these days. You get 12 minutes here, you get five minutes here, three minutes there”

                  The solution is to develop the martial arts- like skill of rapid refocus. When we’re dealing with the 300 e-mails a day, telephone interruptions from customers, requests from co-workers, we’re in traffic cop mode, spinning the treadmill, and maintaining the status quo. But we’re not creating a better future.

                  As an accidental entrepreneur, I find Michael Gerber’s terminology to resonate. There are times when doing the work of the business is all that I can manage to do. But I also know that if I don’t also manage to do the vital and necessary “work ON the business” I won’t be creating the business that we need to become, and our future will be bleak at best. The problem is that working on the company usually entails new initiatives and projects that entail levels of complexity and demand and intensity of focus that are incomatible with the “twelve minutes here.... three minutes there” of “weird time” that David talks about. I have to carve out those two hours, and I find that if I don’t make a conscious effort to schedule it, it simply doesn’t happen. (I think I can guarantee that David didn’t write his book in isolated dribs and drabs of time of a few minutes here, a few minutes there.)

                  When we re-read Drucker—and those others who have had extensive experience working with highly effective chief executives of large organizations—we find that they do exactly the same. Even with all of the demands on their time, they recognize the necessity of scheduling time to work on the company. The higher up in an organization we go, the more tighly we find that executives schedule their days.

                  I like to think that the essence of GTD—getting everything that competes for our attention out of our minds and into a trusted system—along with some skillful rapid refocusing is actually enabling, and allows me the clarity and flexibility to do the necessary and essential work of the business and also to schedule to work on the business.


                  • #10
                    A "second" for the accidental entrepreneur!

                    I like to think that the essence of GTD—getting everything that competes for our attention out of our minds and into a trusted system—along with some skillful rapid refocusing is actually enabling, and allows me the clarity and flexibility to do the necessary and essential work of the business and also to schedule to work on the business.[/QUOTE]

                    Boy, do I ever agree with this! Also, you can be sure I will call myself an "accidental entrepreneur" every chance I get. Might be a great attention-getter on a business card too, huh?


                    • #11
                      I think DA kindly allows to schedule 2 hours to work on business or any activity you want to do. That's your choice and scheduling helps and you are ready to stick to it (do not move or change the time) then go with it. The system supports your choices (calendar) and provides choices (actions lists).


                      • #12
                        I think GTD allows for planning your day. But whether this will work depends on your work-type and your personality.